The draft is a critical part of the NBA, a true make or break time that every team looks forward to. If you’re lucky, you can nab a Jordan, James or Bryant. If you’re unlucky, you’re saddled with some guys who don’t have what it takes to cut it in the NBA. The league is still smarting from the decision to grab kids straight out of high school, the vast majority of whom showed they had no chance of handling the big leagues. But even guys who were great in college fail to live up to that potential while some guys who went lower end up being mega-stars.
Every team has that bad pick, the one guy who stands above the rest for the wrong reasons. The guy who should have been a great player but failed. Sometimes, they can try but not live up to the promise they had. Other times, they’re just totally terrible and not working out at all. There have been slews of picks, no team is immune yet some just rank higher than others. Here is every NBA team’s most disappointing draft pick and showcasing how much of a risk the draft is in that you can get a dud just as much as a star. It's not necessarily the worst player the team selected, but it is the pick the crashed well below the expectations placed on them.
30 Atlanta Hawks: Jon Koncak
In 1985, Dominique Wilkins would have a great season, averaging 30 points a game. His run would aid the Hawks and might have helped them to a playoff run had he gotten good backup behind him. Sadly, he couldn’t as Atlanta had wasted so much on Koncak. While talented, the seven-foot tall player was basically put into a reserve role despite a $13 million deal. The fifth overall pick in 1985, Koncak provided nothing of value to Atlanta.
29 Boston Celtics: Kedrick Brown
28 Brooklyn Nets: Dennis Hopson
27 Charlotte Hornets: Adam Morrison
On the surface of it, this might be a strange choice. How can a man with two NBA Championship rings be cited as a draft letdown? Well, given the excellent potential Morrison showed in college, his failure to become an All-Star in the NBA is pretty big. There’s also how Morrison was the first man picked by new manager of operations Michael Jordan and had a good start. But it faltered and his shooting got worse and worse. In his second season, he suffered a severe knee injury and required surgery, putting him out for the entire year. In 2009, he and Shannon Brown were traded to the Lakers where Morrison was part of their back to back championship seasons.
26 Chicago Bulls: Marcus Fizer
In 2000, the Bulls were doing their best to recover from the epic collapse of the dynasty due to the loss of Jordan, Pippen, Jackson and so many others. Fizer looked to be just what they needed. At Iowa State, he was an All-American putting up terrific numbers. He had played for Tim Floyd who seemed to be the only one to say he was the right choice. The Bulls nabbed him with the fourth pick. Rumors had it that the Bulls had hoped to trade him for someone else but it never happened and he stayed with them for four seasons. During that time, he never averaged more than 12 points a game and tore his ACL in 2003.
25 Cleveland Cavaliers: Anthony Bennett
Born and raised in Toronto, Bennett proved himself at UNLV, shooting 53 percent from the field and almost 30 points a game. Thanks to his great play, the Cavs reached the NCAA tournament. With scouts so eager, Bennett went right into the draft, forgoing another three years in college and becoming the first Canadian player to be drafted number one. The Cavs thought he would be a notable pick and he was…in that it took 33 games for him to record a double-figure scoring game. By this point, many were calling Bennett one of the worst number one picks of all time and his play was a total disaster.
24 Dallas Mavericks: Samaki Walker
Some would say Leon Smith deserves a spot but technically, he was drafted by the Spurs who then traded him right to Dallas. No, the most disappointing straight-up pick by the Mavericks would be Walker. At the time, Dallas was building off “The Three J’s” (Jason Kidd, Jim Jackson and Jamal Mashburn) and figured Walker would be the right guy to back them up. He never scored higher than 8 points in a single game in three seasons with Dallas, more notable for his all-white outfit than anything he did on the court.
23 Denver Nuggets: Nikoloz Tskitishvili
Anyone standing seven feet tall is automatically seen as highly promising by NBA scouts. Tskitishvili would prove that not every foreign player is capable of pulling off that promise. After playing in Italy, Tskitishvili would be drafted by the Nuggets with the fifth pick in the first round. In three seasons, he would average just 3 points and 2 rebounds while shooting 30 percent from the field. Columnists and basketball experts have joined in slamming him as one of the worst foreign players ever chosen so high and was a huge bust in the draft lottery.
22 Detroit Pistons: Darko Milicic
As if it could be anyone else. The 2003 Draft had LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. But with the second pick, the Pistons ignored all those for an 18-year-old Serbian with just decent numbers abroad. While he was part of the Pistons team that won the NBA championship in 2004, Milicic averaged just two points a game, and his playing time was limited. There was promise for him to get more playing time but when the Pistons changed coaches, Milicic only got the time in blowouts (wins and losses) and didn’t show much skill there.
21 Golden State Warriors: Chris Washburn
The warning signs were all there. During his college tenure, Washburn had put up some very good numbers but also had incidents like being arrested for stealing a stereo and the revelation his SAT score was under 500. Even with his good play at N.C. State, there were concerns but the Warriors still grabbed him at #3 of the 1986 draft. While he had flashes now and then, Washburn was cited for poor play and a horrible attitude, not showing up for practices. He was also into drug use and a knee injury just added to his addictions to drag him down.
20 Houston Rockets: Eddie Griffin
His story is a sad one and seen today as a warning for any young player. At Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia, Griffin was amazing, named Player of the Year and showcasing a fantastic skill for his age. However, a fight with a teammate meant he had to finish his senior year by correspondence course. He also got into fights at Seton Hall which made him a risk but the Rockets still traded to get him from the Nets on draft day 2001.
19 Indiana Pacers: Rick Robey
In Kentucky, Robey was part one of the best college basketball teams of the time. The Wildcats were NCAA Champions in 1978 and runners-up in ’75. His fantastic performance has led to his jersey being retired at the school and thus high hopes when the Pacers drafted him in 1978 as the third overall pick. However, his numbers weren’t that impressive and the Pacers would end up trading him to the Celtics. There, Robey had just okay numbers and while part of the Celtics team that won the 1981 title, his contributions were limited.
18 Los Angeles Clippers: Michael Olowokandi
Born in Nigeria, Olowokandi would famously pick the University of the Pacific simply because they were the first school he spotted in a brochure. He averaged 22 points and led the school to the NCAA tournament and his jersey retired by them, making him a must-grab for the 1998 NBA Draft. Drafted at number one by the Clippers, he showcased a poor understanding of play that was surprising for a college vet but showcased his inexperience with American basketball.
17 Los Angeles Lakers: Kermit Washington
Washington’s career can best be summed up as “fair but not that good.” At Coolidge, he was a good player, averaging almost 20 points a game and as many rebounds. He was selected at number five in the first round of the 1973 draft by the Lakers, who hoped he would be a good component to their offense. However, Washington struggled from the start adjusting to pro basketball and admitted he was intimidated by coach Jerry West which affected his performance. A back injury also saddled him further and the Lakers began putting their focus on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would leave Washington hanging.
16 Memphis Grizzlies: Hasheem Thabeet
In a class that included Steph Curry and James Harden, the Grizzlies had a lot of great potential with their number 2 pick in the 2009 draft. Instead, they wasted it on Thabeet, a good player in college cracking the thousand point mark and leading UConn to the Final Four. Sadly, Thabeet could never quite transition into the pros as well, his poor skill in practice landing him in D-Ball for a while. He started just 13 games in two seasons before being traded to the Rockets for a first-round pick. He later went to the Trail Blazers, Thunder, 76ers and Pistons with abysmal numbers for all.
15 Miami Heat: Michael Beasley
At Kansas State, Beasley began getting rave reviews for one of the best freshman players in the country. With 26 points and 12 rebounds a game, he led the NCAA and amassed a total of 866 points. He also shattered double-doubles records, including those set by Carmelo Anthony. With such a huge career ahead, Beasley leaped immediately for the draft and was chosen second in 2008 by the Heat. Despite suffering a chest injury during a team practice, Beasley scored great in the preseason and the anticipation was high that the next superstar was on his way.
14 Milwaukee Bucks: Kent Benson
When your entire career is best summed up by a single fight, that’s a clear sign you’re a disappointment. At Indiana University, Benson was coached by Bobby Knight and excelled, helping the Hoosiers to an undefeated Conference record and winning the 1976 national championship. Going at number one in the draft, Benson was snatched up by the Bucks who thought he could lead them to the championship glory they’d lost when they traded Kareem Abdul-Jabbar years before. His very first game was against the Lakers as Benson hit an elbow on Abdul-Jabbar. He retaliated with a punch that shattered Benson’s jaw and put him out for two months.
13 Minnesota Timberwolves: Christian Laettner
12 New Orleans Pelicans: Kirk Haston
11 New York Knicks: Charlie Ward
The signs should have been obvious. Ward had been one of the standout football players at Florida State, winning the Heisman Trophy and leading FSU to the national championship in 1993. Ward really was an all-around guy as he played tennis, baseball, and basketball (where he set the school record for steals) but football was his passion and most expected him to go high in the NFL draft. Instead, Ward shocked everyone by going to the NBA, thus becoming the only Heisman winner to play pro basketball. Grabbed at number 26, the Knicks felt he was “the point guard of the future” and did their best to push him.
10 Oklahoma City Thunder: Cole Aldrich
Here we have another technicaity as Aldrich was actually selected first by the New Orleans Hornets who then traded him to the Thunder. It seemed a good bet as Aldrich had shown improvement in his time at Kansas, part of the national championship team of 2008 and looked to be sensational on rebounds. Thus, Oklahoma City thought they had the perfect guy to help build them into a championship team. It took just a few practices for them to send him right to D-league to try and improve his game. He was called back up in December of 2010 where he averaged barely two rebounds and fewer points. Just two weeks later, he was sent back to D-league and was soon bouncing between them and the main team, failing to achieve any real potential despite the promise.
9 Orlando Magic: Michael Doleac
At the University of Utah, Doleac had been the big man for a team that reached the NCAA National Championship game, losing in Doleac’s hometown of San Antonio. He was among the team’s best scorers and thus the Magic thought they got something good taking him number 12 in the 1998 draft. However, Doleac didn’t live up to any of that potential, his numbers quite low and the Magic suffering a bit under him. After just three seasons, he was traded to the Cavs, then the Knicks and the Nuggets. He spent three seasons with the Heat where he was part of the team that won the 2006 title but his contributions were rather low.
8 Philadelphia 76ers: Shawn Bradley
Any list of the greatest draft disappointments has to include “the Stormin’ Mormon.” One of the most successful basketball players in Utah high school history, he later went to BYU and set national records in blocks and fantastic with his height and power. When he entered the 1993 draft, the 76ers nabbed him second, right behind Chris Weber and ignored the talk of his weight being a factor. While he would do some good blocking, Bradley was an inconsistent scorer and just as he was showing improvement, the 76ers traded him to the Nets.
7 Phoenix Suns: William Bedford
The 1986 draft class is always overshadowed by the tragic death of Len Bias, the top guy who died of a drug overdose just two days after being drafted by the Celtics. It showed how pervasive drug use was at the time. Bedford is another case of a good player who earned All-American honors at Memphis State and thus the Suns seemed happy to get him at number six.
6 Portland Trail Blazers: Sam Bowie
It may be the single greatest draft blunder in NBA history. As the 1984 draft came close, teams were eager to grab some of the major college stars coming up like Charles Barkley and John Stockton. The Houston Rockets were no.1 and had already settled on Hakeem Olajuwon, who would be a great pick. Portland was second and could have grabbed a number of major stars to aid them. They settled on Sam Bowie, a good player but known for some knee injuries that slowed down. That allowed the Chicago Bulls to use the number three pick on…Michael Jordan.
5 Sacramento Kings: Pervis Ellison
The man who inspired more nicknames than actual good playing results, Ellison was nicknamed “Never Nervous Pervis” for his amazingly cool play at Louisville. Scoring 2000 points and a thousand rebounds, Ellison led Louisville to the National Championship and named Most Outstanding Player as a freshman. He entered the 1989 draft at number one and the Kings were overjoyed to get their hands on him, expecting him to turn them into playoff contenders. Instead, an injury kept him out for nearly all of his rookie season, at which point, the Kings decided to offload him to Washington.
4 San Antonio Spurs: Dwayne Schintzius
The Spurs seem to have a bizarre gift every other NBA team envies. They just somehow never seem to come up with a pure loser in their drafts. With their good records over the years (including championships), San Antonio is used to picking late into the draft after the real big stars are taken. Thus, most of their picks aren’t given much attention and thus aren't seen as much of a disappointment. However, Schintzius should count as the 7’2” center was picked 24th in 1990, just before the team really took off. At Florida, he led the Gators to the NCAA tournament three times and led them in scoring. However, he had a falling out with his coach and entered the draft.
3 Toronto Raptors: Andrea Bargnani
A good player in Europe, Bargnani had major promise with a surprising mobility for a seven-footer and ball-handling skills. He was picked first by the Raptors in 2006 and soon gained popularity, complete with his own action figure for Toronto fans. Sadly, his on-court skills never quite equaled his promise and an emergency appendix surgery affected him. Despite showing some flashes, Bargnani struggled although Raptors management was intent on helping him improve. For every good game where he could score 30 points, Bargnani had a terrible one that showed him as a slow and plodding guy who failed to capitalize on his strengths.
2 Utah Jazz: Jose Ortiz
Born in Puerto Rico, Ortiz was nicknamed “the Concorde” for his great leaping skills while playing basketball. He was soon showcasing himself in international basketball, leading his team to titles and leading his leagues in scoring. He averaged almost 20 points at Oregon State and named PAC-10 Player of the Year. Drafted at number 15 by the Jazz in 1987, Ortiz accepted an offer to play for a year in Spain. He returned in 1988 but averaged just 2.8 points a game, seeming to have issues with playing in the U.S.
1 Washington Wizards: Kwame Brown
Among a high school class that included Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler, Brown was cited as the best bet. He was the all-time rebounder and scorer in the history of Flynn Academy and NCAA scouts were eager to land him for their school. Instead, he bypassed college for the NBA and was grabbed first by the Washington Wizards under Michael Jordan. Brown told coach Doug Collins “you draft me and you’ll never regret it.” Collins now regrets it. In his rookie year, Brown averaged five points a game, was way too raw and even though he showed some improvement he was hampered by injuries and just not as spectacular as promised and not helped by his fighting with coaches and Gilbert Arenas.
He was traded to the Lakers where he again showed promised but ended up being lackluster. Since then, Brown has bounced around various teams, often dumped before he played a single game and showcased a prime reason so many high school stars weren’t ready for the NBA.
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